There is a lot of sadness in a small town in Minnesota after the shooting of two teen-agers on Thursday. Thanksgiving must have been awful for all of the people involved. I can relate. I have been waiting for the press conference about this gruesome shooting that took place in Little Falls, Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day. On the face of it, one could think it was a self defense shooting. But more details were coming and today they were released. From the article:
Indeed. Some people are quick to shoot when it's not necessary. Yes, these two young people broke into Smith's house. They shouldn't have. They both appeared to have some other problems in their lives and one wonders what they were doing out on Thanksgiving Day breaking into this man's home. From another article:"According to the complaint, Smith told investigators:He heard glass breaking around noon Thursday while he was in the basement. It was the latest of several break-ins that he's experienced. Brady started coming down the stairs, and Smith shot him with a rifle by the time he saw the intruder's hips.Brady fell down the stairs and was looking up at Smith when the homeowner shot him in the face."I want him dead," Smith explained to the investigator for the additional shot.Smith put Brady's body on a tarp and dragged him to an office workshop.A few minutes later, Smith heard footsteps above him. As in Brady's case, Kifer too started down the stairs and was shot by Smith by the time he saw her hips, sending her tumbling down the stairs.Smith attempted to shoot her again, but his rifle jammed, prompting Kifer to laugh.Upset, Smith, pulled out a revolver he had on him and shot her "more times than I needed to" in the chest, he said.Smith dragged Kifer next to Brady as she gasped for her life. He pressed the revolver's barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger in what he described as a "good, clean finishing shot" that was meant to end her suffering.Smith acknowledged leaving the bodies in his home overnight before calling a neighbor to ask about a lawyer and to request that authorities be notified.Tessa Ruth, an aunt of Brady, was at the hearing and said she wished Smith had fired a warning shot or called police instead of shooting. "It wasn't right for them to be there and, yes, he had a right to defend himself. But to execute them like that...""
So it was known that Smith had guns and other things of value in the home that had been previously stolen. I have written about stolen guns a few posts ago. At least this last burglary was reported by Smith to law enforcement as it should have been. But if he chose to live in this secluded area and had had previous break-ins, wouldn't you think a security system would be a good idea? And further, do people like this who are so paranoid about the world around them sit around in their homes with their shotguns and handguns at the ready just in case? And even if they do, how about a warning shot, as was suggested, or holding the teens at gun point while calling law enforcement? Did this man truly think this was a self defense shooting? Does anybody? Raise your hand if you think it is ( and don't send me your comments saying you would have done the same thing- they will be unwelcome). Luckily for the families of the victims, the Shoot First law did not pass in Minnesota or the man could have tried using it to keep himself from being charged for murder.The brother said this was the latest of eight burglaries within the last few years, with the most recent on Oct. 27, when about $10,000 worth of guns, electronic gear and cash were stolen after thieves broke out a panel in a lower-level door. He said not all the burglaries were reported but that the one last month was reported to the Morrison County Sheriff's Office.Loved ones of the two teens, as well as authorities, say the shootings went beyond self-defense. Neighbors described Byron Smith as a loner who liked to shoot his guns often, intimidating and worrying nearby residents.Shaeffel said investigators told her that Brady had been shot in the shoulder and head, and that then Kifer was shot.She said her brother made good money working for their father's tree-trimming business and didn't have to resort to burglary.She said that Kifer had been in treatment more than once for abuse of controlled substances, and speculated that her cousin might have been after pills. Kifer had recently returned to school and had been trying to straighten out her life, Shaeffel said, adding that Kifer had stolen Adderall pills from Shaeffel's home."Yes, she had an addiction problem and stuff, but that doesn't mean she deserves to get murdered at 18 years old," Shaeffel said. "I understand they came there to rob them, or whatever, but shoot them in the shoulder and call the cops."Shaeffel, 27, lives near the Smith house and went there Sunday with her close friend, Tiffany Kostohryz."I just wanted to see," Shaeffel said, looking toward the garage. The red-brick house with peeling paint is tucked out of view from the road.Smith's neighbor Lori Williams said she had complained to authorities about the frequent shooting on Smith's property, worrying that children playing outside could be hurt. But deputies had told her and her husband that nothing could be done because his property was outside city limits, the couple said.They described Smith as an odd man who kept to himself. "He didn't say 'boo,'" Scott Williams said.
There are many more unanswered questions that will surely come out later. For now, though, this was a brutal execution style shooting committed by an apparent law abiding gun owner. This case is very painful for me to read about because it is quite reminiscent of my own sister's murder. Her body was found in my ex, and now dead, brother-in-law's basement and was not reported until the next day. Her friend's body was found in the upstairs with evidence of a chase leaving blood drop all around the house. Both bodies were shot more times than was necessary to kill them. My brother-in-law sat in his house for a day before reporting that he had shot 2 people and then not to law enforcement but to his divorce lawyer. What in the world happens to people in these situations?
Guns make these kind of incidents very possible and they happen far too often. As long as we just shrug our shoulders and say we can't do anything, then we won't. We have a gun culture that encourages too many people to have too many guns in too many places. This sort of laissez faire attitude leads to people thinking they can do anything they want in anger or in depression or after consuming too much alcohol or when abusing a spouse or partner. These are not criminals. These are law abiding gun owners who sometimes have problems of their own but are not prohibited purchasers. If we, as a country, would have a serious discussion about the role guns play in our every day lives and then pass some common sense laws that would send a message that guns and ammunition will not be available to just anybody and that access to guns by people who shouldn't have them will be illegal, we might make a chink in the armor of the NRA's crazy world where guns are the answer to everything. Other countries have figured this out. It's our turn to be better than this. It's time to demand a plan and deal as adults with the daily carnage. Like the "Little Engine That Could", I think we can do this.
As if the above brutal shooting was not enough, though, there were quite a few other holiday week-end shootings which I will not list in its' entirety. But here a few more that have come to my attention:
- There was a shooting in a Colorado 7-11 store parking lot. Interestingly, one of my readers wondered if there were just as many shootings at, say, 7-11 stores as there have been at Walmart stores. Here is one. I'm sure there are others. It's just that Walmart is leading the list right now for the most shooting and gun incidents- not something of which to be proud.
- Two motel shootings in Texas within the same number of days. Really. It's true. Here's one of them where one was killed and another injured. This one, also in Dallas, was a triple murder with bodies found in a motel room not far from the scene of the other shooting. Hey, it's Texas where gun laws are loose and shootings are frequent.
- Two dead and 8 wounded in holiday shootings in the Philadelphia area.
- Check out the Kid Shootings blog for the numerous incidents of shootings involving kids in the past week or so. It's enough to make a grown man cry. What are we going to do about this national public health and safety problem? There are young kids with access to guns shooting siblings; there are innocent teens shot while being outside or at parties. One boy was shot at a gun range. One boy shot himself in the face. Really folks. These are real people doing stupid and dangerous things with guns. Most of them are totally avoidable and all are senseless.
Lives depend on our doing the right thing in the name of the victims of gun violence.
As I thought, new information will keep coming forth about this case. Read this latest addition to the Star Tribune article to which I linked above:
This bears repeating: ""..it was Thanksgiving. He didn't want to trouble us on a holiday."" Really Mr. Smith? Are you kidding? Mr. Smith is in big trouble. Anybody who sits around in his house with two dead bodies without reporting the killings has something sinister on his mind. Like maybe, what story he could devise concerning why he had just murdered two teen agers. And further, why did he not report this directly to law enforcement? He went to a neighbor instead? My brother-in-law reported that he had murdered two people to his divorce lawyer. Yes, really. And that was after sitting in his house over night with two dead bodies. Some people should not have access to guns. Too many people are shot to death by people like these guys.Smith appeared for a 10-minute court hearing late Monday morning wearing an orange jumpsuit, his hands and feet in shackles. Bail was set at $2 million, with the prosecution noting the defendant's extensive travels to Beijing, Bangkok, Moscow and elsewhere overseas while he was working for the U.S. State Department.In asking for the high bail figure, County Attorney Brian Middendorf said the incident was a case of cold-blooded murder. "The circumstances are appalling and far beyond any self-defense claim," he said.Sheriff Michel Wetzel told reporters Monday afternoon that Smith explained to authorities that he didn't call immediately after killing the two because "it was Thanksgiving. He didn't want to trouble us on a holiday."As for whether Smith could be justified in shooting intruders, Wetzel said that a citizen does have to right to protect person or property, but it has to be reasonable.What Smith did "went further than the law. It doesn't permit you to execute once the threat is gone."
With every article, some new information comes out about the Minnesota shooting. Here is the latest one from the Duluth News Tribune:
Is that true? Do people laugh when they get shot? And does that make a shooter more angry so they need to finish them off? This is one sick and twisted man. And more from the article:Though Kifer was "already hurting," she let out a short laugh, Smith told investigators. He then pulled out his .22-caliber revolver and shot her several times in the chest, according to the complaint."If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," Smith told investigators, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
Minnesota law allows a homeowner to use deadly force on an intruder if a reasonable person would fear they're in danger of harm, and Smith told investigators he was afraid the intruders might have a weapon. However, Smith's actions weren't justified, Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said.
"The law doesn't permit you to execute somebody once a threat is gone," he said.
Here is yet another article about this story. From the article:
I continue to be amazed at the audacity of some who love to go after victims. Why do people have to slander victims? These teens allegedly did something wrong but now they are dead. This is a tactic of the extreme gun nuts and happens frequently. As long as that continues, there is little hope for any serious discussion about gun violence issues. These folks are in the minority but they give a bad name to the pro gun rights folks."The fact of the matter is, if people have all of the facts, they would not be quite so divided in their opinions," he told The Associated Press, noting that many details have not been made public. "It's not as controversial or as unclear an issue as people might think at first blush."Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, was charged Monday with two counts of murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and her cousin, 17-year-old Nicholas Brady. According to the criminal complaint, Smith shot the teens multiple times as they tried to burglarize his house, which he said had been broken into before.Minnesota law gives homeowners the right to protect themselves and their property, but Wetzel said they don't have the right to execute an intruder once the threat is neutralized.According to the complaint, Smith told authorities he was fearful after several break-ins at his home in the town of about 8,000 people. The complaint said he told authorities that he was in his basement on Thanksgiving Day when he heard a window break upstairs. When he saw Brady on the basement stairwell, he fired — then shot him again in the face after he fell down.The complaint said Smith told an investigator: "I want him dead."Smith said he dragged Brady's body into his workshop. When Kifer came down the stairs, he shot her multiple times as well, and dragged her into the room with Brady. She was still gasping for air, so he fired what he called a "good clean finishing shot" under her chin "up into the cranium," the complaint said.And then police weren't called until the next day.John Lange defended Smith, whom he called his best friend, saying that even after reading the details of the complaint, he didn't feel Smith should be in jail."You have a right to defend your home," Lange said. "He's been through hell."Little Falls resident Liberty Nunn, who said she knew Nicholas Brady's older sister, said Smith could have simply shouted at them to stop. She said she hopes Smith goes to prison "for a very, very long time.""Those are two young lives that were taken," she said. "It's just not right."Some went to social media to express opinions, including Facebook pages set up to support the victims' family that also attracted comments slandering the victims. The creators of the pages did not return messages seeking comment.Family members of the victims also did not return messages.Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf's office said he would have no comment Tuesday. On Monday, he acknowledged the case could create controversy."I would ask that people not rush to judgment," he said. "Let the investigation continue. Let all the facts come out in court."State Rep. Tony Cornish, a former police officer who sponsored a bill last year that would have expanded circumstances in which people could use deadly force, said he believes Smith would have had a legitimate defense if he would've stopped firing after his first shot."After that first shot, when it turned into a grisly execution, he lost any hope he had of not being prosecuted," Cornish said. "He lost all my support."Rich Collins, a Morrison County commissioner, said that as a National Rifle Association instructor for basic home protection, he is a firm believer that everyone has a right to protect their property — but that they must also make attempts to retreat and call law enforcement."These young kids should not have been in this guy's house. That's a given. Nobody can deny that," Collins said. "Did he have the right to shoot them? Yes he did. ... But in the manner in which he used that right, I think, was excessive."
From another article about the teens allegedly breaking into another home:
Investigators were working late Tuesday to determine whether the two teenage cousins slain during a home burglary in Little Falls, Minn., on Thanksgiving Day committed a similar crime just hours before the fatal shootings.Preliminary findings suggest that Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, were involved in another break-in Wednesday night, 6 miles south of the home where Byron Smith claims he shot them in self-defense, said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. Smith, 64, a retired U.S. State Department worker, is charged with second-degree murder in the double shooting, which Wetzel has characterized as "cold-blooded" executions carried out after the teens were disabled by initial shots.In the latest development, investigators are piecing together evidence recovered from a red Mitsubishi Eclipse that Brady had been driving, and which was discovered Friday parked a block away and around the corner from Smith's property, 3 miles north of Little Falls.That same car was seen in a driveway last Wednesday evening 3 miles south of Little Falls, in the vicinity of a house belonging to Richard L. Johnson, a retired Little Falls High School teacher who had been in Spain until Sunday evening.Wetzel confirmed that deputies who had been called to the Johnson neighborhood about the car identified it as one used by Brady, but not registered to him.The sheriff also said that Brady had walked up to the car, was questioned by the deputies and released. The burglary at Johnson's home was at that time undiscovered, he said.
Here is a great column from Minnesota columnist Nick Coleman about the Little Falls shooting:
Thank you Nick Coleman.
It now turns out that the shooter of the Little Falls teens wants first degree murder charges dropped:
Where is common sense?An attorney for a Little Falls man accused of killing two teenagers who broke into his home is trying to get first-degree murder charges dismissed.The Associated Press reports that at a hearing Friday in Morrison County District Court, a lawyer for Byron Smith, 56, questioned investigators about what they did after the November deaths of 17-year-old Nicholas Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer.Judge Douglas Anderson will give attorneys until November to file written arguments, then he will make his decision on whether the charges should be dismissed, reports the Pioneer Press.Smith’s attorney says there is no enough evidence for the indictment. Steven Meshbesher also argued that prosecutors committed misconduct during grand jury proceedings and that there were other flaws in the case.Meshbesher also wants evidence obtained during searches of Smith’s house to be suppressed, the St. Cloud Times reported.Smith has been free since posting $50,000 conditional bail after he was initially charged with second-degree murder. A grand jury later indicted him on first-degree murder charges.Prosecutors say Smith shot Brady and Kifer multiple times after they broke into his home last November. His attorneys have claimed he acted in self-defense.The shooting kindled much debate about how much force homeowners can use when protecting property, particularly during home invasions.